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Business Is Simple -- It's the People Who Make It Complicated
by Mike McKinley

Maybe you read the title and said, No, this job of mine is complicated, this business is complicated, and it's getting worse! Maybe you've even thought about going off on your own and becoming a one-person show.

Many of the businesses I patronize forget about the simple basics. I have a friend who describes business by saying, “Take care of your customers, take care of your people, count your money.” Too simplistic? Maybe. But let's take a look at where we've come from in business.

There has always been competition. Competition comes from places where people can choose to spend their money. When I was president of a manufacturing company that made mattresses and furniture, we were always in competition, not only with other furniture stores, but also with other big-ticket items. If there were a lot of appliances being bought, then maybe people wouldn't have enough available cash to spend on our products. The same was true for car sales. If people bought an automobile, they tended to put off furniture purchases for a while.

The competition continues today for valued customers who choose what they want to buy, where they want to do business, and, ultimately, whether they want to purchase anything at all. In today's marketplace, the competition is fierce because we have so many options. In our community alone, we have literally hundreds of places where we can buy groceries, dine out, or buy gasoline.

Back in my grandparents' time, those options weren't there, and they probably bought all the above-mentioned products from the same place of business. So maybe business has become more complex. Yet with that complexity, there needs to be much more emphasis on the basics of business.

Here are 10 basics that I've noticed over the years:
  • Hire the right (best) people.
    Business should always be in a hiring mode. Having the right people in the right place doing the right thing is the challenge for any business.
  • Enforce high standards of appearance and professionalism.
    Constant reminders need to be given to our people as to how they look, sound, and respond to our customers. Leadership within the business must have a clear understanding and agreement as to what those standards are.
  • Reinforce and recognize employees and provide meaningful feedback to them.
    People like being praised and professionally corrected for their attitude and behavior. The evaluation process of people in business needs to be fair and firm.
  • Demonstrate the-customer-is-always-right attitudes and behaviors.
    Making customers feel special is a way to make sure that those customers will want to come back and will tell others that they should do business with you.
  • Reinforce the high quality of services you provide.
    Businesses can get lazy as they perform their everyday activities. There must be constant monitoring of processes in order to deliver goods and services beyond customers' expectations.
  • Instill a sense of urgency about customer service.
    No one likes to wait. We're all in a hurry. Today's customers will no longer be patient. If you don't sell me quick and deliver quicker, I'll go someplace where I can find quickness.
  • Develop a team-oriented work environment.
    Together we're even better. The structure of teamwork adjusts for different businesses. The basics of this cooperative partnership remain the same: trust, honesty, communication, investigation, and care.
  • Maintain partnerships with customers and suppliers.
    Working on the same side of the desk is a must for both our suppliers and our customers. Having an adversarial relationship with either one will eventually doom a business. People do business with people they like doing business with. When there is transaction trouble, these relationships need to be strong and responsive.
  • Establish positive community relations.
    How are you viewed by people outside your business? Do you give back to the community from which you take? Are you helping your industry grow by sharing your strengths and weaknesses and by learning from others?
  • Live your mission; keep your promises.
    Why are you in business? Does every decision you make have some tie-in to your values and to why you are in business? If your mother did business with you, would she be a happy customer?
Making sure that all the participants in the business understand the foundation of their existence is not only important, it's mandatory. Buildings provide locations, while people provide the heartbeat of any business.

Are you, as a player in your business, still enthusiastic about coming to work, or has it become a daily grind? Business excels when those in leadership understand their role and are constantly upgrading the basics to build staff expertise in order to serve customers in unexpected ways.

To me, business is exciting. It has been since I started my own garbage-hauling business when I was 15. Every business I've been in since then has had surprises, problems, stress, change, and fears.

I'm sure your business has all the same qualities. I learned early from my parents that you make business, it doesn't make you. If business isn't engaged in a proactive focus while remaining reactive in its response to trends and customer needs, then there is no business.

That's about as basic as it gets.

Michael McKinley, CSP, CPAE, is a professional speaker who builds and delivers personalized presentations on business topics for corporations and professional associations. He owns McKinley Companies, Inc., whose Thinking Publications division publishes resources for speech-language pathologists. Mike's Alive! Alive! Associates division markets his speaking and consulting services.

Copyright Michael McKinley. All Rights Reserved.

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